El Aviador have mostly focused on more classic releases in 400 scale so far, but this Copa 'ConnectMiles.com' special scheme 737 is their first modern release. The model also highlights the most recent 737-800 mould from Panda Models, designed to compete against the NG version, so it is interesting that NG themselves have recently released this same aircraft and scheme a few months after the El Aviador release. Does this version compete - let's find out.
THIS REVIEW IS SPONSORED BY EL AVIADOR
Each review is to split into three key areas:
400 scale is littered with a variety of mediocre 737-800 moulds, but Panda did have the best with their 2014 mould until NG Models came along with their outstanding series 800 in 2019. This seemingly spurred Panda into action and they withdrew their existing 737NG and began working on a replacement mould. It took some time for it to appear on the market but did so in 2020, initially with some rather disappointing P-8 Poseidons.
Even though the P-8s weren't great, underneath them there was clearly a decent 737-800. Since then Panda have released a few examples mainly for retailers such as MyHobbyHouse, Airshop Diecast, Airplane Models @ SG and now El Aviador.
Until this mould was released the NG version was miles out in front of the other contenders. It is still probably in front but by a much smaller margin as this is a good casting aside from one issue.
The issue I'm talking about is the nosegear or at least the nosegear door. Nosegear on 737-800s has been an issue on most moulds and is sometimes on the NG version as well, although that is due to quality control rather than mould problems. Panda have remade the nosegear and door for this mould but the doors are too small and too far indented into the fuselage also. They should have an angled lower edge but on this mould, as on many others, the bottom margin is horizontal.
It is the small size of the nosegear door that makes the gear leg look too long, which gives the aircraft a rather 737MAX like look. Otherwise the gear is fine and when it comes to the maingear I think the shape and feel of it is better than on the NG Models mould. Interestingly on the Panda 73G this doesn't seem to be such an issue but all the 737-800s I have using this mould have the problem. You could therefore argue this is a QC issue but its apparent constant application across the board suggests it is a mould problem to me.
The nose and cockpit region is very nice, at least as good as the NG version and certainly superior to all the other moulds. The rest of the fuselage is also well shaped and has no issues. The wings are delightful and finely printed and detailed with good engine pylons attaching the CFMs at the correct height.
The engine shape is also good and Panda have certainly improved the exhaust shape of them to show the three separate elements that make it up. It is probably the best exhaust on any 738 mould.
This aircraft is fitted with the split scimitar winglets and they are once again fine and sharp, although I do think the lower winglet is a little shorter than it ought to be. There are no issues at the rear of the fuselage or tail. On the underside the strong detailing and sculpting continues, and unlike the NG mould there is a standhole.
Overall I would say that this mould is nearly as good as the NG version aside from the nosegear. It is certainly streets ahead of any 737-800 being made by JC Wings, Gemini Jets or Phoenix.
SCORE - 9
PAINT & LIVERY
Copa Airlines scheme is not a worldbeater, being basically a modified version of the now classic 90s Continental globe colours. This special scheme, which advertises their frequent flyer programme, spruces things up a little albeit mainly by adding billboard titles.
It is a little hard to discuss the livery rendition without talking about the printing but I will try and disentangle the two for this review. The blue and gold colours used here are fine, although there is a suspicion that the blue could be slightly darker. There are no issues with the tail design either.
The fuselage titles are excellent and use the correct font and spacing. Unfortunately they are just in the wrong place as they are rather obviously too high. It is probably only by a mm or so but on this size of model it is rather obvious. The reason for it is due to the window template, as the titles are positioned correctly in regards to the windowline - see below in the printing section for more on this.
Otherwise the model livery is spot on. Smaller details like the Star Alliance logo, Panamanian flag and winglet paint are all good. There is also a very nice silver belly. It is a shame that the titles are too high as otherwise this would be getting a near perfect livery score. As it is I must dock several points.
SCORE - 8
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
Ok, so Panda clearly has an issue with the print template on their 737NGs as this isn't the only model where the windowline has been too high. Unfortunately this more often than not does impact the livery application as this is usually tied to window positions. I also think the cockpit printing is slightly too thin and the upper margin of it could be higher.
In every other respect the printing is the usual high standard with a lot of fine detailing present, especially on the underside.
Build quality is broadly fine aside from the left side maingear not sitting completely flat to the ground. I have to commend the quality of the aerials, of which all five are presented very finely and at good size.
SCORE - 7
There is a fine model in here but Panda cannot make the kind of print mistakes they have here if they wish to compete with NG Models. I can see from looking at photos that the NG version has a much better situated windowline and so the titles are positioned correctly. They already have a slightly better mould so in comparison this version suffers somewhat. Nonetheless, as a standalone model this version is still decent and with a few easy tweaks Panda 737-800s will be ready to compete on a level playing field with the excellent NG version.
FINAL SCORE - 24/30
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I'm Richard Stretton an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale models. On this page I take a detailed look at new releases.
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